Glendale aviation commission still opposes homes by airport, but explores compromise

Mark Carlisle
Independent Newsmedia

Glendale’s Aviation Advisory Commission remains opposed to a proposed home development near the Glendale Municipal Airport but has also begun to explore the best way for the airport to coexist with the homes, should they be built.

Mattamy Homes hopes to build 207 houses north of the Camelback Ranch spring training facility, just across the Glendale-Phoenix border from the airport. Rose Law Group began representing the housing company in mid-March and representatives from the firm attended the March 21 aviation commission meeting to begin a dialogue with the commission about how the development could best coordinate with the airport.

“I’m certainly not opposed to having the discussion,” said commission chair Larry Rovey. “Because again, I think it’s been said, even by some of our commissioners that they think ultimately there’s gonna be houses there. So, if that’s where it’s going to end up, we certainly want to have cooperated and whatever (is built), there would be something that would be more compatible.”

Commissioners oppose the development because of anticipated complaints regarding noise and flyovers as well as safety concerns for the homes in the event of a crash. The airport’s traffic would be heading the residents’ way, too. Most flights take off to the east, toward the planned development, in order to not interfere with Luke Air Force Base’s operations to the west. Commissioners say building homes so close, 1,500 feet from the runway, is bad for the airport and homeowners.

City of Phoenix action

One hurdle for the homes to be built was crossed April 5 when the Phoenix Planning Commission approved a recommendation for an amendment to the area’s general plan. The issue will come before the Phoenix City Council for final approval at its meeting, 2:30 p.m. Wednesday May 2 at the Phoenix Council Chambers.

However, another larger hurdle was pushed back when the commission tabled a rezoning request for the property to its next meeting, Thursday May 3. That change will also require final approval by Phoenix Council.

Glendale’s aviation commission sent a letter, backed by a unanimous vote of support, to the Glendale Council, urging the Council to write Phoenix Council asking them to deny the rezoning and development requests.

Court Rich, a senior partner at Rose Law Group who represented Mattamy Homes at the March aviation meeting, asked commissioners to hold off sending that letter and a letter to Phoenix’s planning commission until the two groups had discussions of how the homes could best coincide with the airport. Commissioners were not opposed to discussion but sent the letters, wanting to make sure the Glendale City Council was aware of the issue and the commission’s stance on the issue.

Compromises

Compromises discussed included outreach to future home buyers to ensure they were aware of the airport’s proximity and noise levels, special insulation and windows to decrease indoor noise levels in the homes and setting a legal cap to how tall buildings on the property could be, now and in the future.

Commissioners noted issues they’d faced in career experiences at the other Arizona airports, claiming that decibel levels don’t matter for complaints as much as how loud and how close residents perceive planes to be.

“I appreciate what Mattamy has proposed to try to mitigate this issue, but what I can never get past… is that it is never a good idea to build residential development around an airport, because it has always been a point of contention between the airport and the residents and the homeowners and the property owners that live there,” said interim Glendale airport administrator Joe Husband, citing his 28 years working in the aviation and airport industries.

Mr. Rich and commissioners agreed it was best to meet for further discussions outside of aviation commission meetings because meeting once a month would not be a quick enough pace for the timeline that they home development’s requests will come before the Phoenix Council.

Needed changes

For the homes to be built, the Phoenix City Council must approve a rezoning request to change the land from S-1 SP for ranch or farm residential use to  R110 for single family residencies and a general plan amendment to change the entire development to 2-3.5 dwelling units per acre instead of a higher density in some parts and a lower density in others, as it is currently planned.

The Phoenix Planning Commission approved the general plan amendment despite a unanimous no vote from Phoenix’s Maryvale Village Planning Committee, dissent from the Glendale aviation commission and a letter from 11 businesses that use the Glendale airport, expressing concern over the home development’s incompatibility with the airport.

Mr. Rovey said the commission’s priority is the airport and people who use it, noting several flight schools use the airport, which include louder and lower-flying helicopters that use the area near the site of the proposed development. He worries that homeowners could pressure the flight schools to shut down or limit their hours.

This map shows the proximity of the Glendale Municipal Airport to the planned housing development in Phoenix. [Map from city of Phoenix Planning Commission]

History

The Phoenix land was previously owned by Glendale, as part of the purchase of Camelback Ranch, and planned for commercial development or possibly a resort, but the plans did not come to fruition and Glendale later sold the land.

Aviation Commissioner Quentin Tolby of the Cactus District, a former Glendale mayor and councilmember, said he was on the Council when the airport was built and was frustrated the city sold.

“This is not a new objection,” he said of the opposition to homes on the property. “… That’s the reason we bought that property: because we knew it was a potential problem. And then unfortunately, they gave it away, and now we’re here fighting an issue that we had solved once.”

Search for airport administrator

The Glendale Municipal Airport is in the middle of a nation-wide search for a new airport administrator. Mr. Husband, who has served as interim administrator since December 2017, said staff plan on interviewing candidates in May and aim for the new administrator to start in late May or early June.

Mark Carlisle can be reached at 623-876-2518 or mcarlisle@newszap.com.



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